Race analysis: Challengers? A load of Bull

0574CB7D7367It was a win of Schumacher-esque proportions. In fact, this was a win that harks back to the heyday of the Vettelian era in 2011. Sebastian Vettel stormed to his third win of the season at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with relative ease, being a class above the rest of the field on Sunday. He was very rarely given a reason to push, eventually easing home with 13 seconds to spare in what must go down as one of his best wins.

The start was the only time Lewis Hamilton even came close to Vettel. Another good start from the Red Bull meant that any threat was quickly averted, with Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg benefitting from Valtteri Bottas’ tardy getaway. This was the biggest cost to Williams, as the Finn became susceptible to Alonso and Vergne. There is no denying that the FW35 is a terrible car in the dry, but it was a shame that more did not come from such a surprising result in qualifying. All of the great drivers have that drive which makes people sit up and take notice: Senna’s was Monaco ’84, Schumacher’s was Belgium ’91, Vettel’s was Italy ’08 – this was meant to be Bottas’ big chance. Sadly though, we are unlikely to see such a performance until the gremlins inside the FW35 are found and dealt with.

Mercedes also (predictably) failed to manage their tyres effectively and their hopes of a second win in a row dwindled. Hamilton did well to hang on for so long, and he very nearly re-took Alonso for P2 late on. This battle was the highlight of the race as the gap, which at one point was over 7 seconds, shrank lap by lap. It was a case of “no, surely Alonso can’t catch Hami- oh, wait, he’s through.” Mercedes’ biggest faux-pas came with Nico Rosberg’s strategy, electing to run his second stint with supersoft tyres. The wear of the W04 meant that he could not escape Webber and Alonso, both on mediums, and his final stop was purely taken because he could after the gap to Vergne became so great. However, the Silver Arrows have certainly made a step forward in terms of tyre wear – the worth of the private test is on display for all to see.

Ferrari may not have come close to Red Bull on-track, but their pace was certainly a big improvement from Monaco. Alonso did lag behind the front four at the start, yet he managed his pace well to pick them off one by one to finish an excellent P2. The sticking point? The man he had to beat was P1. Regardless, a good day for the team was furthered by Felipe Massa’s fine performance, charging from 0673CB7D9316P16 to pick up four points for 8th. His overtakes were reminiscent of Australia 2007, checking off the field with some fine moves, with Sutil being the only driver to really put up a fight. Damage limitation was on the agenda for Massa though after qualifying, and his haul may be small, but the manner in which he scored will certainly be appreciated in Maranello.

Just as the prancing horse’s charge fell apart in Monaco, Lotus’ disintegrated in Canada. Raikkonen tried to make the one stop strategy work but his lack of pace cost him deeply throughout the race, eventually finishing 9th behind Felipe Massa. Romain Grosjean was impressive to continue on the harder tyre as long as he did until Lotus brought him in a fraction too early, forcing him into a third stop as the supersofts failed to go the distance. Paul di Resta’s efforts were highly commendable though, making his mediums last for an astonishing 56 laps, setting PBs right until the end of the stint. The signal for him to pit was a drop in pace by four-tenths – a highly professional and mature performance from the Scot. Another driver who appeared to ‘come of age’ in the race was Jean-Eric Vergne, having a lonely race en route to 6th, although he won’t complain. This performance in the dry proves that he is more than a one trick pony (i.e. wet runner), and certainly puts him in the frame for the Red Bull seat should they choose to replace Webber with one of the Toro Rosso drivers.

Frankly, there was no stopping Vettel in Canada, and his rivals will have to step up their game if they are to stop him from winning a fourth title. The Canadian GP failed to live up to the hype of Canada, in the wake of a string of great grands prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but we now head to the British GP where McLaren, Lotus and Williams will have to bounce back at their home race. For Red Bull though, the outlook has rarely been brighter.

Images courtesy of Octane Photographic.

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